Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Jazz Singer (1927)

Today's film is The Jazz Singer.  It is regarded as the first talking picture ever made.  Actually it's more like a half silent film/half musical.  Still it was amazing that they were able to transition from silent to talking films so quickly once they figured it out.

The story is predictable and easy to follow.  A Jewish cantor's son does not want to follow in his father footsteps, instead he wants to sing Jazz.  Jazz was like the rock and roll of its time when it comes to parents hating music and the father is royally pissed off that his son wants to sing this garbage.  So the son, Jakie, leaves, changes his name to the more acceptable and less Jewish-sounding Jack Robin, and sings jazz.  He is "discovered" by a beautiful dancer named Mary, and he has a crush on her.

As an adult, he gets a part on Broadway, which is an accomplishment that any parent should be proud of.  But oh no, not his dad.  Jack comes home and sings to his understanding and loving mother.  Then he sings the same song in jazz style.  His dad storms in and throws him out of the house.

This was the only picture I could find that
didn't show him in blackface.  I don't want
to end up on some government list.

His dad falls ill and cannot sing at the service for the Day of Atonement, one of the most important days of the year.  His mom and family friend go to give the guilt trip to Jack to force him to sing.  Unfortunately, this day falls on the opening of the Broadway musical he's in and singing at the service means giving up his beginning Broadway career.  His mom lays on the guilt trip hard, and Jack points out that his dad was the one who threw him out of the house.  Meanwhile, their friend cannot find anyone to sing for the service.  Really? They're having trouble finding a Jewish person in New York City?  The guilt trip works and Jack sings for the service.

His dad hears him singing from his room, and says, "We finally have our son back", and dies.  What a sorry excuse for a parent.  He never supported anything he did. Children are going to have different wants, and may go down a different path than we do.  Jack didn't do drugs, or steal, all he wanted was to sing.  And because he didn't sing exactly as his father wanted, he was hateful towards him until the moment he died.  He never got to see Jack open on Broadway like his mother did, and honestly he wouldn't have cared.  I felt bad for Jack.

The main reason to watch this film is not for story purposes, but for historical purposes.  What would it have been like to only see silent films, and then actually hear someone sing during it?  I think it would have be amazing.  I will give this film a 7/10.


  1. You actually point out the reasons for seing this film beyond the tchnical novelty of sound: the guilt trip theme. I know it is a theme seen often before and since but it is rather poignant here and I cannot help wanting to kick both mum, dad and friend hard in sensitive spots for playing this game.

    1. They made me so mad for how they treated Jack. The guilt trip is really strong in this film.